What is your voucher code?
Work ethic brings rewards
Ashley Woodcock developed a strong work ethic growing up in rural Tasmania, where he helped his parents with their small business after school and on weekends.
While he studied for a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne, he worked at a small sized business called Hire Depot.
Seeking an extra challenge, Ashley started his own hire business at just 23, while still at university.
“I really like the concept of hire, as I believe there will always be a demand for it,” he says. “Why pay for a machine that you only need for a few months of the year, when you could hire one?”
Ashley saw a demand for a product that was designed for traffic management but also effective for advertising retail businesses such as car yards, gyms, furniture and other retail outlets. He started with three electronic road signs, hiring them to retailers.
By doing this, he avoided a competitive market in the road works industry and could ensure all the signs were out on hire all the time. “For the first couple of years, we basically had 100 per cent usage, as we knew when the hires were going to end and would go out marketing until we had orders for the downtime.”
RPM Hire now has five employees and hires out electronic message board signs, portable traffic lights, portable lighting towers, portable arrow boards and rooftop balloons for the advertising, events and traffic management industries.
Customers include government departments such as the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Country Fire Authority, VicRoads, local councils and large companies such as Fulton Hogan, Downer Construction, QR Constructions, Citywide and Australian Traffic Control.
RPM Hire also hires to Harvey Norman, car dealerships, furniture stores, gyms and Westfield shopping centres. It mostly operates in Victoria but has had work in Tasmania, South Australian and New South Wales.
“We provide extra value to our customers that our competitors either can’t or don’t,” Ashley says. “We do this by always looking at each job from our customer’s perspective, and understanding what our customers are trying to achieve, and where we can add extra value to our service.”
“We are very clear about striving to be the number one provider of customer service in our industry, as opposed to focussing on undercutting our competitors on price. We always say ‘yes’, and ensure each job is carried out as promptly as possible, and to the highest standards.”
Things were going really well, but Ashley says it can be difficult for a young business owner to have the confidence to make big decisions. “I was after a mentor to help guide, and oversee the direction of the business, but also to have someone trustworthy to confide in,” he says.
Ashley discovered SBMS while working with a gym, where a young electrician who was using the service told him it was very helpful. Ashley asked for the same mentor, René Blaszak.
René is a dynamic manager with a successful history of profit improvement via sustainable cost reduction, restructuring and business development/marketing. He is particularly skilled in strategic/business planning and realistic objective setting.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Ashley had five sessions with René over more than 12 months and they remain in contact. Initially René and Ashley discussed business planning and cash management. René helped Ashley with:
- Business Planning
- Cash flow control
- Staff management and selection
- Bonus schemes
- Employment contracts
- Takeover strategies.
René says Ashley’s business was already performing well and he is now well placed to take it to the next level. “Ashley has grown in confidence and maturity and his business performance is outstanding for a young person in a very competitive field,” he says.
Ashley has improved his understanding of the business and his business skills, profitability, systems management, staff relations and work-life balance. “Ashley seems much more happy and settled,” René says. “He has just become engaged and he and his fiancée have recently bought their own home.”
Before seeing René, Ashley says he was trying to do everything himself, including the day-to-day tasks such as delivering and picking up signs, often at all hours. “René emphasized working on the business as opposed to in the business, which was something that I found really hard to let go of, but has had an enormous impact on the strength of the business,” he says.
Ashley says the mentoring allowed him to be a better leader for his staff, through confidence and direction with the challenging task of managing people. “This was an area that I was struggling with,” he says.
Since seeing René, profits have increased by 400 per cent, sales by 300 per cent and new customers by 200 per cent. The business has also invested more and more money in equipment, and now boasts a healthy market share.
“Employment has been one of the most rewarding areas that René has helped me with,” Ashley says. “I now have the confidence in my abilities to lead and develop employees, and to delegate responsibilities. It is very rewarding leading a motivated team of employees who understand, believe and excel in the mission and vision of the business.”
Ashley has also introduced a bonus structure for the sales staff and a bonus system for the delivery drivers. “I feel this has helped to motivate all our staff to the success of the business,” he says. “The delivery drivers now assist in providing sales leads, and check in with the sales team to see that we have followed up on these.
When Ashley found SBMS, he thought his business was running well. “I was, however, completely tied to the business and growth had stalled due to me being at my full capacity,” he says. “I now work a lot less hours (questionable sometimes), and the business has excelled in its growth and capabilities.”
To download a copy of this story, click here